Have you noticed how we spend our whole life planning?
Planning for later, next week, next month, next year?
What we can do, where we can go, what we can buy?
From planning our next trip to the coffee shop to planning our next interview or holiday we are constantly planning on ways to make our life happier. Even right down to the nitty gritty things in our life such as making sure we nip into the best vacant table in the restaurant, get the train seat with a table, or even squeeze in the queue so we get the last piece of cake.
We live our whole life from the same perspective, we are the centre of our whole universe and everything else revolves around us. We don’t knowingly wake every morning and make this affirmation to ourselves but its like a little hidden agenda that governs every waking moment. We devote our whole life to making ourself happy, we probably include our friends and family in this circle because they are our friends and family, so we give them some importance in the grand scheme of things.
We all do this.
We want to be happy so this is the way to go about it, surely?
Ironically, we’ve got it wrong.
As the great Buddhist master Shantideva said:
“All the happiness there is in this world arises from wishing others to be happy
And all the suffering there is in this world arises from wishing ourself to be happy.”
If you thing about it we have followed this view of ourself as the most important thing in the world for some time now, yet we are still not happy 24/7 are we?
We still get irritable, impatient, angry, and generally fed-up at some point every day so we need a new game plan.
When we view ourself as most important (termed ‘self-cherishing’ by Buddhists) we naturally assume our needs, wants and desires are more important than everybody elses.
Therefore in all our relationships our self-cherishing causes us to mentally filter everything according to want we want. This often leads to miserable negative minds and miserable negative actions, which not surprisingly lead us to feel unhappy, irritated, angry, jealous, even if these feelings remain unspoken.
Partner: ‘Let’s watch the baseball’
You: (Thinks: ‘I’d rather watch a movie,I’m sick of watching baseball, I’d rather do something else’)
You: “I’m so sick of sitting here watching baseball, you’re more interested in watching baseball than in me…………..I don’t know why we’re even together”
(With this angry mind we can see where our happiness has gone.)
We get impatient when somebody else is holding up the queue at the checkout, jealous when they have something we want, annoyed when our boss wants us to revise a presentation,angry when we don’t get our own way, miserable, anxious and depressed when are our wishes aren’t met.
All our negative behaviour arises because of our self-cherishing; just like a child with a tantrum who doesn’t get their own way, we slam doors, make unpleasant comments or shout at people, send sharp texts, emails or facebook messages, fall out with friends, partners and family, or even physically hurt people in anger, all because of our self-cherishing, our view that sees ourself and our wishes as more important than anybody elses.
We have no valid basis for believing so much in our own importance, we are one person amongst how many billion? Why should one person be more important than all the rest?
If we worked in an office with 20 people and 19 of us were freezing cold, yet one person was too hot and opened the window, would we think that was a fair outcome? (Only if we were the hot person!) We would most likely consider the benefits of the greatest number of people.
But generally our focus is always on ‘me’ and what I need or want. It is the cause of all the negativity in our life, so the simplest way to remove the negativity and misery is to remove the focus on ‘me’
This doesn’t mean we can’t plan our coffee shops, shopping trips and holidays, neither does it mean we don’t enjoy our life and take care of ourselves , friends and family, or become a ‘doormat’.
What it does mean is that we merely shift our focus a little, by expanding the very small circle of interest we have at the moment to something a little wider reaching.
We already know this works by our experience.
Think of the times we have helped a friend or family member in need, we feel quite happy and pleased to see the benefit we have given them, merely helping somebody pick up belongings they have dropped, or lifting a pushchair or heavy bags onto public transport, or letting another drive out in front of us on the way to work,makes us feel positive and happy.
When we realise that others and their wishes, are at least as important as ourself and our wishes, we are ‘cherishing others’.
If you think about it, for every person you pass today, their wish to be happy and avoid any kind of pain or suffering is just as important to them as our wish for the same is to us. In this way we are all the same regardless of age, sex, or social standing. The beggar in the street basically wants exactly the same as we do, a happy life without pain or suffering. We may not all have the same game plan, and some of us make mistakes (probably all of us at some time or other) but we all have the same underlying wish, and that wish is just as important to each of us.
So how do we change our blueprint?
To start with we can become more aware of everybody around us, consider the above reasoning in relation to everybody we meet.
We don’t have to run around hugging everybody but we can develop kindness in our mind.
When we start to understand how we all share the same goal, a wish for happiness, we can try to help others in little ways, here and there, begin to notice how fulfilling this is and how it increases our our own happiness as well as theirs.
It’s a little bit like ‘Groundhog day’, mentally we’re stuck in the same old rut and we need to try a different tactic to move things forward.
When we shift our focus towards others and become more considerate of the needs of others we experience these principles in action for ourselves, gradually our mind becomes less tense, we become less stressed and more relaxed as we let go of our self-obsession.
This can only lead to one thing……………